TMH General Studies Manual Review: Must Have Books for IAS Preparation

GS manual for Prelims paper 1 and 2

Are you looking for a companion that will provide all the topics of Prelims Paper 1 and 2 syllabus in one place? One that you can easily go through and revise before the Prelims? Tata McGraw Hill (TMH), a renowned name in educations books including books for IAS exam, has come out with with two guides that claim to fulfill the above requirements of IAS aspirants. The General Studies for Civil Services Preliminary Examination for Paper 1 and CSAT GS for Civil Services Preliminary Examination Paper 2. But how good are these manuals, do they fulfill the basic requirement of extensive syllabus coverage along with easy readability and accurate information? Let’s find out. But first let’s answer a basic question:

Do You Need a Reference Manual for Prelims?

This is a often asked question by IAS aspirants and it will be prudent to answer this first. A reference manual like the TMH Manuals for Paper 1 and Paper 2 cover all the topics listed in the Prelims syllabus along with practice question sets. The advantage of such a manual is you get all the information at one place. But is such a collection adequate or do you need to refer other books as well? For some topics you will not need to refer other books, like in the topics mentioned below in the review, while for some others you are required to read additional books (listed below). But without doubt such a manual helps to revise very quickly before the Prelims when it is not possible to refer a dozen or more books in a short time of 15 or 20 days. Another advantage is that some information like GK bits that are difficult to find or too time consuming to look up can be easily found in such reference manuals for Prelims. Plus, if you read the CSAT Manual review for Paper 2 in the end I have stated that no other book is required for Paper 2 other than the CSAT Manual. So with this important question answered, let’s get on with the review.

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TMH General Studies Manual for Paper 1

The TMH GS Manual is legendary among IAS aspirants and requires no introduction. It is one of the first books I recommend in my article on Books for Prelims (or CSAT). Why so? Simply because, although a guide cannot replace the basic books that you have to refer, it surely is handy when it comes to finding information on all subjects and topics at one place. Also some topics don’t require us to read NCERT books or other books; in such case the TMH GS manual is sufficient. But the most important use of such a  General Studies manual is during revision before the Prelims when you cannot go through all the books, especially since it is vital to take mock tests, the GS manual can be a real time saver by helping you revise quickly.

Another plus of this guide for Paper 1 is that it contains a module on current events as well. You can even practice tests with the sample papers, as well as refer past year’s solved prelims papers. The content is divided into the following sections:

  • History of India
  • Indian National Movement
  • Indian and World Geography
  • Indian Polity and Governance
  • Economic and Social Development
  • Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change
  • General Science
  • General Knowledge
  • Current Events
  • Two Practice Test Papers
  • Previous Years’ Question Papers 2007-2012

As can be seen all the topics in Paper 1 syllabus are covered here and they also provide 2 practice tests on the Prelims pattern with similar difficulty. There are many practice questions included after each section as well to provide you ample practice and opportunity for to test yourself.

Content Boxes and Easy Language
Useful Content Boxes

The first thing that strikes you as you flip the pages are the content boxes containing important facts or summarizing a topic. These boxes are there in all sections and are a very welcome addition since you immediately glance at the information contained in it even when just skipping past the other information. Also another advantage of the TMH General Studies Manual is the easy-to-read error-free language. Grammatical mistakes every now then, which are the hallmark of books from, can put off readers. Fortunately the language is simple and lucid. Also the answers to practice questions are quite accurate. But then, this is expected of a reputed publisher like TMH.

Now let’s review the important sections briefly.

Indian History

Indian History is divided into 2 sections – History of India covering the period from Ancient period till end of 19th Century and Indian National Movement covering the period from early 20th Century till the post-Independence phase. Although History coverage was not as good as their Geography material in the earlier editions, the current edition does a pretty good job at explaining Indian History. Even then, some topics like Buddhism seem rushed and more elaborate coverage would have been appreciated since UPSC tends to ask quite a few questions on Buddhism regularly.

Historical maps pertaining to the Mauryan empire, Delhi Sultanate etc. are included to give a proper understanding of the historical context. Even diagrams of family lineages are depicted which is very useful for sequence-based questions in Prelims.

Coming to Indian National Movement, although all major events are covered as well as the post-Independence phase of integration of princely states you will still need to refer the primary books like Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence. After all you cannot expect an entire book to be condensed in a few pages. This is after all, a reference manual but it does not replace the need to refer the primary books; at least not in the case of Modern Indian History.

Good Coverage of Indian and World Geography

I’ve always felt that Geography is the most well presented and explained portion in the TMH GS Manual and it’s no exception in this edition as well. All topics in Geography like Economic, Physical, Human are covered well along with detailed maps like those in the Oxford Student Atlas. In the section on Economic Geography the latest Census data is also included along with other important data relating to tribal and racial groups etc. In fact, of you’re short of time only referring the TMH GS Manual will be adequate in relation to the geography syllabus. It’s that good.

Indian Polity and Governance

Polity plays an important part in the Prelims and you can expect anywhere between 8-15 questions on it. The TMH General Studies Manual covers Indian Polity quite extensively including the tricky topics like Panchayati Raj, Emergency and Amendments. In fact all the amendments till the latest one are listed. It also discuses the current issues in focus like Electoral Reforms, Women’s Representation and so on. You will still need to refer a good book for bare acts though and I recommend PM Bakshi’s Constitution of India for this purpose.

Indian Economy in the TMH GS Manual

Economy is another important topic and facts and figures should be on your finger tips. The Indian Economy coverage in TMH Manual is not so satisfactory. Although it does not explain the fundamentals of Economy like Stock Market, Banking in detail other topics like Planning, Women Empowerment, Budgeting, Social and Welfare Schemes have been covered well. Even demographic and social data is included for your reference. I will advise you to supplement this with the Economic Survey of India published by Oxford University Press that contains a wealth of economic data in tabulated form.

Ecology, Bio-Diversity and Climate Change

These topics as you might know are constantly in the news and thus have been included in the new Prelims syllabus by UPSC. Good news is that TMH has added a separate section on these 3 topics in the reference manual for Paper 1. Each of the 3 topics have been tackled comprehensively and a lot of supplementary information is included as well. Another plus is that there are separate questions  on Ecology, Bio-Diversity and Climate Change after each topic. For aspirants who want to know a good source for tackling this section, TMH GS Manual is good enough.

Extensive Coverage of General Science

The Science portion has always been a plus point of getting the TMH Reference Manual and its no different this year as well. Every topic has been dealt comprehensively and separately under the Physics, Chemistry, and Biology sub-sections. Useful tables on vitamin, diseases, deficiencies etc. are also included. Plenty of explanatory diagrams are thrown in as well to aid learning. If you cover General Science well from the TMH GS Manual you will not require to refer other books for this purpose.

The General Knowledge Section is Pretty Good

Yes, the TMH GS Manual has an extensive section on General Knowledge. It starts with information on the different Indian States and contains useful info on the Indian Space Programme. Awards and Honours, Dams, Rivers, Lakes, Languages etc. Important International Organisations are also covered. GK has always been a crucial component of the Prelims paper and together with the Manorama Year Book, the TMH Manual is good combination for building up your General Knowledge.

Useful Coverage of Current Events

Although aspirants tend to focus on the past 10 months or so current events they should know that nowadays UPSC is asking questions related to events that occurred years back. And this is where the Current Events section in the TMH GS Manual will help you. It covers events from January till August this year, both domestic as well as international. So if you continue from this period onwards you will have a good collection of current bits on events that occurred 1-15 months prior to the Prelims.

All in all, the TMH GS Manual for Paper 1 is highly recommended for beginners as well as experienced IAS aspirants alike. It will add real value to your preparation and revision and for certain topics like Geography and Science can completely eliminate the need for a standard text book and other books. If you still haven’t got this book, I strongly suggest you get it and start reading it at the earliest.


TMH CSAT Manual for Paper 2

For a while I used to suggest three different books for Prelims paper 2, popularly known as CSAT, but not anymore. Now that TMH has come out with a separate reference manual for CSAT you don’t need to refer other books since the quality of this book is excellent. Let us review it briefly.

The TMH CSAT Manual is divided into 7 sections:

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal Skills Including Communication Skills
  • Logical Reasoning and Analytical Ability
  • Decision Making and Problem Solving
  • General Mental Ability
  • Basic Numeracy and Data Interpretation
  • English Language Comprehension Skills

As you can see the book not only covers the Prelims Paper 2 syllabus in detail but even goes beyond and is useful for other competitive exams as well. Each section starts with an introduction to the topic followed by detailed solved questions where steps to solve the particular problem type are included. After you gain confidence in tackling that question type, you are expected to take the exercise that follows. But that’s not all.  Detailed solutions are provided for each question at the end so there is no confusion left in your mind.

The advantage of the TMH CSAT Manual is the accuracy of the answers. While some other reference manuals are doubtful at best when it comes to accurate answers, this is never an issue with TMH books and the CSAT Manual is no exception.

I particularly liked the section on Decision Making and Problem Solving from where 7 questions are usually asked in every Prelims that carry no  negative penalty and should therefore be attempted. In this topic various question types that could be asked are listed followed by detailed explanation of each type and tips to answer them. The basic premise followed in the Manual for Decision Making is that certain Principles or Values are tested in the question and a corresponding Rationale or Reasoning is is required to pick the correct option. Once you follow this method you can then develop a sound judgement required by UPSC of civil servants and will then be able to get most of the answers correct.

Some of the often asked question types like Probability, Permutation and Combination, Venn Diagram, Distance and Time, Family Relations are also covered well in this book. But this is not all. The TMH CSAT Manual also contains 20 solved practice paper sets each containing 80 questions. After going through so many questions I doubt you can’t crack the Prelims with flying colours.

Summarizing, I feel TMH CSAT Manual for Paper 2 is a one-stop solution for your Paper 2 needs with detailed explanation in a simple manner and more than adequate practice questions. If you want to refer just one book for Prelims paper 2, go with this one.

I hope this review of the best reference manuals for Prelims paper 1 and 2 will be useful to you. I would like to hear your responses and experiences with these and other books in the comments below.

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  1. Hello Sir,

    I am preparing for my UPSC Exam from for 2013 from the books I purchased last year. I have General Studies Paper 1 and 2 from 2012 apart from the other books which you had suggested. Do I need to buy these two books to update myself of all the recent developments or are the 2012 books enough? Are there any other books I can buy to update myself of all the recent and important developments?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Akshay,

      If you already have the 2012 version you need not buy the latest edition as it has the same content more or less. If you don’t have a book for Paper 2 then consider getting TMH CSAT Manual for P2.

  2. Hello sir,
    I am a pre-final year engineering student and an aspirant of civil service.I am from computer science branch and aiming for 2014 civil service examination.I have no idea how to start the preparation. Can u please guide me in this reference.I want your suggestion regarding following issues-
    1) I should start my preparation with respect to Mains examination or Pre-lims examination.
    2) What should i focus for General Studies.
    3) I have chosen my first optional as Indian Polity,but unable to decide my second Optional .
    4) I am currently in a remote area where my college is situated so i have no access to good coaching institutes.

  3. Dear sir, i am preparing for csat-2013. i have already purchased maximum no. of idividual books i.e separate books for each subjects (history, geography etc……….) . so, my question is , is it required to purchase TMH 1&2 books too. ….. plz suggest me. thank u

  4. Hello Sir,
    I have already purchased CSAT manual from Arihant publication. So, should I also busy TMH paper 2 manual as well? Is there any difference?

  5. I have already purchase a unique quittenssence manual for CSAT. SO is there need to purchase tata mcgraw hill manual for CSAT?
    i Want to also know that from which std we need to refer NCERT BOOKS FOR preliminary?

  6. sir lam in 6 semester of computer science engineering and now i would i to start preparation for las exam and which subject is best for me as optional subject as lam engineering background….? and 1 more question is that after be gate certificate is required or not…?waiting for your reply thank you

  7. Dear Sir,

    I am a working person and now finally decided to prepare for Civil Services. I have few doubts i mind please clear them for me-

    1) As I am working i feel studing from seperate books is very tough for me in this case should I only study from TMH Manual 1 and 2, will this be sufficient.

    2) I have doubt that if I start studing from nowonwards then clearing IAS relims 2013 is tough task as I am left with very less time, do you also think so or the time is enough to clear the exam .
    kindly reply.

  8. Sir,
    I am in final year of b-tech(computer science branch). I want to prepare for IAS but don’t know how to start?
    Please help me out in starting the preparation and please help me out in selecting optional subjects.
    I am a newcomer to civil services exams.

  9. dear sir. TMH manuals are sufficient for prelims preparation? or v should purchase other books too? plz clarify. thanks

  10. sir in coaching it is recommended to buy unique csat book instead of tmh as tmh dont contains pcs material is it true…??? and 1 more thing ur ebook is nt yet sended to my mail..??

  11. Sir i belongs to tamilnadu? where can i buy the books specially TMGH …….suggest me some websites………….

  12. sir, when will general studies paper 1 TMH 2014 be published? or in more general,in which month does TMH usually publish their TMH paper 1 ?.do you think the content of economy and other sections will improve or made better in next edition,since you said that some sections are very poor in current edition(2013).The reason i am asking is that,i am in dilemma whether to buy TMH 2013 or wait till the 2014 is published?.Right now, i am in my college,and will appear in CSE 2016,so i can wait a little longer.i can’t afford buying both 2013 and later, will the new content be worth the wait?.i know it sounds a bit silly and foolish.but please do reply.thank you.

  13. sir i am already having rs agarwal quantitative aptitude and verbal and non verbal reasoning book.
    should i buy tmh csat paper 2 book or not??

  14. sir iam in btech final yr iam starting for ias . i have passed 10 from icse board . should i straightway go for TMH General Studies Manual or start with ncert books .iam also having ARIHANT General Knowledge 2013 ,is that sufficient or i should also take TMH General Studies Manual.

  15. Hllo sir,,i m studying mbbs (1st year) in mkcg medical colg,berhampur,odisha.I want to be an ias officer,,though its very difficult to preapare during mbbs but i took dis as a challenge,,,i don’t knw abt d recommended book for ias ,,if u will give some tips abt preparation then i will remain grateful 2 u sir

  16. Sir,
    I am an electrical engineering student.Can you please suggest me if taking electrical as my optional is a good idea or not?I’ve heard that scoring good marks is not so easy with it.

  17. does this book have any sought of difference between other manuals.
    Please guide us. Which is website more good for current affairs.
    I’m back again in my starting line of preparation.

  18. HELLO SIR…kindly tell me about the arihant gs manaul for ias(2014 version)…would it be good to study it,,,,leaving tmh,pearson as i found it very attractive….

  19. sir i will appear for cs 2015. How to start with? I mean should i start from NCERT books and GS manual. what to do please guide me.

  20. Hi Vimlaksh,

    I think you are doing a commendable job of giving away all of this good advice. Thanks and keep up the good job. My prayers with you. 🙂


  21. hello sir,

    I m done with the ncert portion in geography please suggest me for further enhancing which book is best and contain maximum part of geography, confuse in the following books :-

    D Khullar
    Indian and world geography by Majid Hussain
    Savinder Singh and also suggest same above issue in Polity also

    Indian Polity by M Lakshmikant
    DD Basu
    Subhash Kashyap
    Arihant/TMH Publication

    1. Hello Amit,

      Are you referring to Geography for Prelims or Mains? For pre, go with Physical Geography by Goh Cheng Leong. In Polity go with Subhash Kashyap

  22. Hello Sir,
    I am Jawahar.G. I had completed my Civil Engineering Last year and went to job for past six months. I am unsatisfied with the work.. So, I had decided to prepare for the competative exams. Appearing IAS exam is my Long time Goal.. I searched through the NET for the materials and guidance area, where I saw your website IAS it is quite interesting One. here i can find the things i needed..

    First of all i Want to thank you for doing this kind of Great job..

    Because Motivation is the greatest thing in this world….

    Thanks A lot for Making This website like “A TREE FULL OF FRUITS”. It makes everyone to taste the future…

    …***JAI HIND***…

  23. hi sir!!!
    i am a working professional and also preparing for UPSC.but quite confused,where to start from??? pls guide me,specially for mains.

  24. Sir please enlist the mistakes from mc grawhill 2014 general studies paper 1, there are lots of mistakes. Sir please do t needful asap.

      1. Sir i am about to prepare for csat 2015 from now . I was just wondering a relative of mine who is also a high court judge told me that ‘general studies for paper 1 by unique publications is quite good, you dont need any other material’.

        So which one would you say is good TMH or UNIQUE ???


  25. sir suggest me abook how to crack rc passeges of csat-2 as i am facing most problems in these passeges due to less understanding&others problems

  26. sir plz suggest me a book for “RC” passeges of csat-2 because i am facing most problem in these passege .

  27. Namaste Vimlakshji. A thick book of General Studies Manual for Civil service Preiminary by Manohar Pandey is sufficient? Is it good book of GS manual?
    This book is very cheap and saves money.

    The history (+culture) section GS manuals is written based on old NCERT to add a few books from history optional. It covers the whole syllabus and conceptual understanding and in-depth knowledge.

  28. Sir i am about to prepare for csat 2015 from now . I was just wondering a relative of mine who is also a high court judge told me that ‘general studies for paper 1 by unique publications is quite good, you dont need any other material’.

    So which one would you say is good TMH or UNIQUE ???


  29. sir, can u please tell me which one would be a better option between the two for complete preparation of upsc prelims exam ?? 1) Tata Mcgrawhill GS + CSAT or 2)NCERT Books ???

  30. Hello Sir,
    My question is whether this book(TMH Manual- GS ,Economy, Polity, History) is enough for my preparation towards mains..

  31. Which manual should i refer for preparation for csat preliums.
    Online websites which will update me every latest news related to upsc…
    Please reply

  32. hello sir , I want to prepare for civil services examination ,Is TMH preliminary books good book for examination purpose and completely cover all areas in both papers ?

  33. which book is good for prelims as a objective question in hindi i have notes but i want to more prepare sharplly…..

  34. Hello, I got a little doubt over how and from where do i buy this manual for Science? Can somebody dissolve this issue?

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